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Intensive education can help patients with acute low-back pain

The latest findings from The Cochrane Library


People with low-back pain who were given an additional individual two and a half-hour education session with a trained specialist on top of their usual care did better than those given normal care alone.

Low-back pain is very common in adults, but most people find that it goes away over time. However, it does account for considerable healthcare costs and absenteeism from work. Therefore, many people are interested in finding ways of increasing the recovery rate.

A group of Cochrane Researchers set out to establish the effectiveness of individual education programs in which patients spend time with a trained healthcare worker in order to learn about back pain and discover ways to modify their behaviour.

After drawing data from 24 studies, they concluded that patients with acute low-back pain benefited from a single two and a half-hour individual education session. In addition, data from six of the studies showed that individual education appeared to be just as effective as interventions like chiropractic manipulation and physiotherapy.

"Patient education session that last for shorter periods of time or written information on its own does not seem to be as effective," says lead researcher Dr Arno Engers, who works in the Centre for Quality of Care Research at Radboud University Nijmegen Medical Centre, The Netherlands.

People with longer-lasting symptoms were less likely to benefit from education than non-educational treatments. The reviewers therefore highlighted the need for research on the effectiveness of education sessions for these people with chronic back pain.


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